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Not Luck, Not Skill: Favorable Confluence

In yesterday's post, Blez wondered if the White Sox can boast the best rotation in the AL; in a diary the day before, rungood posed the question, "Is there such thing as a `sophomore slump'"? Today, these two questions meet (and wind up exchanging driver's licenses and insurance information)...

First off, let me say that I believe the White Sox earned everything they achieved in 2005. They weren't lucky; they were always good enough to be a little bit ahead in the long season, or short series, they were playing. But success is often simply the favorable confluence of events. The White Sox' rotation is composed largely of pitchers who have, in their career so far, been highly inconsistent. Along with newly acquired enigma Javier Vasquez, these pitchers--Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, and Jose Contreras--all performed extremely well in 2005. It is quite possible that when all is said and done, these three pitchers' careers will each look like a maddeningly random series of good and bad seasons, with only one thing in common: for each of them, one of their really good seasons will have been 2005. That's not a "great rotation"; it's a rotation that was great, because three wildly fluctuating graphs all happened to meet at one point.

And the regression I expect to see from these pitchers, and from the team in general, will not be a "sophomore slump," nor will it be every opponent gets a surge of "we want a piece of the White Sox this year" adrenaline. It is simply what happens when you throw a pair of dice and roll an "11"--which is unusual but hardly evidence of a faulty pair of dice--and then try to improve upon the sum. Dice, like inconsistent pitchers and surprisingly good teams, tend to find their mean over time. It's kind of like hitting on "16" in blackjack and drawing a 5. It's nice, it happens, it's not totally bizarre or anything, but you shouldn't necessarily expect it to happen next time. It's kind of like Kevin Millwood, and hopefully not at all like Joe Blanton.

In 2005, the White Sox were a good team that played great, behind a good pitching staff that pitched great. In 2006, the White Sox figure to be a good team that plays well, behind a good pitching staff that pitches well.

Best rotations in 2006? Oakland and Minnesota. Champions of the AL Central? Probably Cleveland.